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Talking all things air quality in our latest report

In 2020 we published our inaugural annual report, ‘Our Air in Review’. That first year, our aim was to bring to light the latest news, research and issues surrounding air quality in the UK. We wanted to provide a deep understanding of indoor air quality (IAQ) by highlighting the relationship between indoor and outdoor air quality, and how both are squarely linked to the health of all living things, and our planet. 

For 2021, we’ve grown our report to include air quality news, studies and discussion from across the world. We have spoken at length to thought leaders, experts and industry innovators to better understand the impact of air quality, how it is currently managed and what products and processes are being used to improve pollution.

Our report explores the following:

  • Global views on air quality
  • Schools and children
  • The health effects of air pollution
  • The climate crisis
  • Sustainable and healthy buildings
  • Clean air technology
  • Groups and organisations campaigning for clean air

“The indoor air you breathe can be hazardous to your health without any telltale signs.”

– American Lung Association 
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COVID-19 has rocketed the subject of IAQ into the mainstream, precisely as we teeter on the brink of climate disaster. Air quality and climate change are intrinsically linked; you can’t address one without bracing the other.

The unjustness is supercharged with irony as these communities contribute the least to global pollution. We need to say this again: around 7 million people die from air pollution a year, with 99% of the global population breathing unsafe air.

Unjust air quality

The heartbreaking facts surrounding air quality and inequality are clear: the poorest people in the world suffer the effects of pollution more viciously than the well-off. We’ve spoken to research professors whose studies prove that certain socioeconomic, racial and ethnic groups are  far more likely to be breathing dangerously polluted air. 

We spoke to Sara Grineski, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Utah, about her study proving ethnic minority children fare far worse than their white peers regarding neurotoxicant exposure at school.

Read about Professor Grineski’s study

Clean air for schools and children

We also look at air quality in and around schools and how children, by nature, are more physically sensitive to pollution. Former human-rights lawyer Jemima Hartshorn, founder of grassroots activism group Mums for Lungs, discusses the successful increase of School Streets across London (from 80 school sites to 400), a campaign that restricts all traffic near schools during drop-off and pick-up times. 

92% of respondents agreed that indoor air quality in schools should be monitored.

– AirRated survey, 2021
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Beyond COVID-19 and returning to work

Pollution has traditionally been associated with outdoor air quality, but COVID-19 has catapulted IAQ into mainstream conversation. This year’s report includes conversations with experts working in the field for many years, who witnessed a pre-pandemic lift in IAQ interest that, unsurprisingly, snowballed as fast as the virus. 

Today, we may be WFH, hybrid working or returning to an office. Air quality in workplaces has come into sharp focus because of the virus, but is not only a COVID-19 issue. IAQ at work is a topic that addresses new generations of workers and tenants looking for healthier, more sustainable environments.

Millennials and Gen Z are larger generational populations than ever before and therefore bigger workforces. Both have strong values, but while older millennials are more likely long-term renters, Gen Z care deeply about the environment and personal and corporate responsibility. 

When the virus eventually subsides, what will happen? Will a younger, larger workforce be drawn to a substandard office, or would they rather work in a building where wellbeing and the environment are prioritised?

Optimal air quality has been proved to increase productivity among employees, while current workforces and imminent future ones prioritise wellbeing. Dr Piers MacNaughton conducted studies that showed people’s cognition in a polluted indoor environment reduces by up to 50% compared with optimised indoor space:

“The influence of the indoor environment is under-appreciated, resulting in a huge cost associated with ignoring or delaying action towards healthy buildings.”

– Dr Piers MacNaughton
Dr MacNaughton explains the link between healthy buildings and productivity in detail 

Keeping the world turning: corporate responsibility

The question is, now what? In order to prevent a climate catastrophe and ensure economies remain stable (preventing the fiscal fall-out of already deprived, struggling nations), our choices must shift. 

On a larger scale, corporations and governments need to act with a laser focus on sustainability and responsibility. By committing to sustainable strategies across whole supply chains, corporations can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint.

Our chat with James Cannings, Chief Sustainability Officer at MSQ, reveals how he reached carbon negative by offsetting more carbon than the company’s global operation uses. James lays out the real differences between carbon neutral, carbon negative, and net zero and  shares his most effective carbon reduction tips. what he thinks the future will bring.

75% of respondents reported that COVID-19 has altered the way they think about clean air technology. 

– AirRated survey, 2021
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Technological support

Luckily, advancements in technology are constant. By exploring clean air tech, our report defines the latest innovations that provide hope for the future. Movers and shakers in the tech space reveal what they’ve been working on and what they’d like to see developed while industry leaders forecast what the future may hold. There is hope that we can turn the tide on pollution and provide clean air for all, if we act now.

Download your copy of 2021: Our Air in Review. We really have made an air quality report for everyone, including you. Since formally launching at the start of 2020, AirRated has certified over 10 million sq. ft. of real estate in Europe. The benefits are plenty, from proving a building’s health to improving the health of its occupants. If you’d like to talk to us about an AirScore, please get in touch.